The New Jersey Community College Consortium for Workforce & Economic Development works to connect workers seeking skills training with programs available through New Jersey’s community colleges.
Since 2004, NJCCC programs have trained more than 100,000 people at over 5,400 companies. Sivaraman Anbarasan serves as CEO and executive director of the consortium.
“We’re trying to upskill them,” Anbarasan said of the workers who benefit from NJCCC programs.
Those include Advanced Manufacturing Training Initiative; Ready to Work New Jersey, which provides training for workers who have been unemployed for six months or longer; and Basic Skills Workforce Training Program, which the consortium operates in cooperation with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.
“The history is that we assist the community colleges, 19 in New Jersey, with various training and workforce development programs,” said John Radvany, the consortium’s program manager. “We report to all the presidents of the community colleges.”
Funding comes from various sources, including federal grants, money from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the NJBIA.
The Ready to Work program got its start as part of a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, initially targeting three industries — information technology, advance manufacturing and life sciences. The federal funding began in 2014 and that grant is now winding down, Radvany said.
But the program drew interest from the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development as well. The state offered funding to help with some other industries, including health care, tourism and financial services.
That portion of grant funding will be in effect until at least July 2019, Radvany said. “If people were unemployed more than six months, they would be eligible,” he explained. “We could give them a leg up on resume refreshing, or a new course under their belt.”
Another program is Career Choice, which the consortium operates in cooperation with Amazon.
“Amazon wants to upgrade skills of some of their workers to work at Amazon or elsewhere,” Radvany said. “You don’t hear about people providing training for people so they can get work elsewhere. Most of Amazon’s jobs are entry level, so Career Choice offers training and they learn the skills to further their careers, using the network of community colleges to provide these skills.”
Roller Bearing Co. of America in West Trenton is one employer that has found the program to be an effective source of new employees. Greg Ganley, RBC’s human resources director, explained how his company got involved.
“[Radvany] invited me to a conference at Middlesex County College, where I learned about programs, including one with Amazon,” Ganley said. “A few months later, it’s proved to be a worthwhile partnership.”
Employees at his company tend to have long careers, he noted.
“It’s our 100th year in business; we hire people and they stay with us,” Ganley said said. “We have a lot of upcoming retirements, relative to geography, and we’re assessing quality talent for our company.”
Ganley said RBC has brought in nine new hires over the past couple of months from this program and expects to hire nine more by the end of this calendar year. Its machinist positions start at $16.50 per hour, and workers can expect to make $30 as experienced machinists, with health benefits and company match 401 (k).
“The problem with the current machinist workforce, people were trained into these jobs, now they’ve spent their careers doing it and are getting ready to retire,” Ganley said. “Not a lot of people are going to trade school now. If you like working with your hands, mechanics, sheet metal – this is a job that works well for those types of people.”
Skills these candidates learn include cutting, safety rules and how to work with computer numerical control equipment, Ganley said.
“They’re going in for 12 weeks, coming out that much better for it,” he said. “Our average workers are 57-58. One is 71, but he has no plans to slow down any time soon. It’s something to keep our eye on. We hope to get our average age down.”
This program helps significantly in that goal, Ganley indicated.
“The hirees average in their 30s,” he said. “They could be successful for 20 to 30 years.”
To Ganley, this program also represents a great partnership with a large employer, educational opportunities and workforce development.
“Amazon is making a significant investment in their employees,” Ganley said. “They recognize the types of jobs they have. They want to help better the lives of their good employees. [Applicants must] work there at least a year to qualify for the program.”
One worker who has used the consortium’s programs to enhance his skills and marketability is now working as a welder. Dan Galvan of Freehold had been working as a garage mechanic before he took a welding course from Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. He is now working at Jersey Shore Steel in Jackson, from which he received a job offer even before he’d completed the 12-week Brookdale program in April.
“The program was a really friendly environment. It’s really fun; you’re welding all day,” he said. “We all get gear – gloves, helmets, other equipment. We were just given it.”
More than just equipment, which includes a welding helmet Galvan says he still uses, he learned that there is much more than meets the eye when it comes to welding.
“You gain more confidence — when you get to the job, it’s more than just putting a bead down, it’s measurement, using different tools,” he said. “You need to be able to fabricate, read blueprints and understand welding symbols.”
It also gave him a greater sense of hope for his future and earning potential.
“That just changed my whole attitude,” he said. “I can definitely grow this to joining unions. [There’s] a lot more improvement in welding vs. mechanics, as regards to pay. It opened a huge door for me.”